Salute Your Shorts was a short-lived (but beloved) children’s sitcom that aired on Nickelodeon from 1991-1992. The show followed the lives of a group of teenage campers and their strict counselor at the fictional Camp Anawanna. Bolstered by a catchy theme song and memorable characters, Salute Your Shorts was one of the highest-rated cable programs when it aired and is fondly remembered by everyone who watched Nickelodeon in the 90s.
One episode of Salute Your Shorts in particular is burned into 90s kids’ brains and served as nightmare fuel for a whole generation. The third episode of the first season, titled “Ghost Story” (and sometimes mistitled as “Zeke the Plumber”), is the only scary episode of the show. Like a typical Halloween episode, “Ghost Story” features a standalone plot that allows the characters to embrace horror movie tropes before returning to the show’s normal vibe in the following episode.
In the episode, the residents of Camp Anawanna are gathered for a ghost story in a candlelit lodge after dark. Camp bully Budnick (Danny Cooksey) tells the story of Zeke, a former plumber at the camp who didn’t mind cleaning toilets because he lost his nose in the army. Unfortunately, this injury also meant Zeke could not smell leaking gas while digging a hole and died in a tragic accident. He left behind a cursed plunger and haunted the dreams of any camper who touched it, hinting at the episode being inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Because his face was destroyed in the accident that caused his death, Zeke the plumber wore a scary mask during his haunting escapades.
Later that night the campers are getting ready to go to bed and find themselves worrying about Zeke the plumber. Dina (Heidi Lucas) pours a circle of toothpaste around her bunk believing it will ward off spirits and the other girls follow suit. In the boys’ cabin, Michael (Erik MacArthur) sees a vision of Zeke plumbing a toilet, which is clogged by Michael’s stuffed animal which he is embarrassed to have brought to camp. Fortunately, Michael wakes up to discover it was all a dream. The next day at breakfast Telly (Venus DeMilo) has a similar nightmare.
The campers realize that Zeke knows what they are most afraid of because Budnick has created such strong imagery of Zeke in their minds. They decide to get revenge by daring Budnick to spend the night in the clearing where Zeke died. Although their plan to scare Budnick fails, he becomes frightened after walking into a spiderweb and has to admit that he is terrified. The campers’ nightmares are gone and everyone at Camp Anawanna forgets about Zeke the plumber.
Paramount+ has recently added Salute Your Shorts to their catalog, but some of the episodes are lost media. Only six episodes from season one and six episodes from season two are on the service, despite there originally being thirteen episodes in each season. Fortunately, the “Ghost Story” episode is one of the episodes that is available to stream and the episode can also be purchased from Amazon.